Fox's “Stunning” Benghazi Revelation Isn't Stunning At All

Fox News spun the testimony of a former CIA deputy director to claim that intelligence gathered by officers on the ground during the 2012 Benghazi attacks was “dismissed” by leadership -- a claim that ignored context provided by Morell as well as a Senate investigative report that debunked the narrative months ago.

On April 2, former CIA deputy director Michael Morell testified before the House Intelligence Committee regarding the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.  Fox News covered the hearing extensively throughout the day. On America's News HQ, correspondent Catherine Herridge claimed Morell revealed a “stunning statement,” saying that top CIA officials “essentially dismissed” intelligence officers on the ground as a matter of course and concluding that Morell's testimony amounts to “a body blow for many intelligence officers who are putting their necks on the line.”

HERRIDGE: One of the extraordinary headlines we had in the last few minutes was also from Morell and it's a pretty stunning statement. What he said is that the analysts -- and we've heard this consistently -- he relied on the findings of the analysts in Washington who were thousands of miles from the scene of the attack. And he also testified that those analysts did not have access to eyewitness accounts on the ground when they said they believed the attacks came out of a protest.

Herridge's report took Morell's testimony grossly out of context and ignored older findings that elaborate on the intelligence gathering process. As the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence explained in its report on the attacks published in January, a lack of clear eyewitness accounts on the ground in Benghazi made it necessary to rely on other sources:

A dearth of clear and definitive HUMINT or eyewitness reporting led IC analysts to rely on open press reports and limited SIGINT reporting that incorrectly attributed the origins of the Benghazi attacks to “protests,” over first-hand accounts from U.S. officials on the ground. CIA's January 4, 2013, Analytic Line Review  found that "[a ]pproximately a dozen reports that included press accounts, public statements by AAS members, HUMINT reporting, DOD reporting, and signals intelligence all stated or strongly suggested that a protest occurred outside of the Mission facility just prior to the attacks."

In fact, Morell himself testified as to the reason the eyewitness accounts on the ground weren't given to analysts in an exchange with Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), context that didn't make its way into Herridge's report:

BACHMANN: I thought I just heard you say, Mr. Morell, that the information taken from the eyewitnesses on the ground wasn't given to your analysts. That they looked at the press reports, the intelligence product, SIGINT, HUMINT. Is that true?

MORELL: Ma'am, what you have to understand, ma'am, is that the information didn't come all at one time. The information came in pieces over time. And when the analysts wrote their piece on the 12th, that was published on the 13th, the information that they had said there was a protest. The information, they had no information that said there was no protest. There may have been people, on the ground, who knew there was no protest, but they had not yet been interviewed, and those interviews had not yet been disseminated. In fact they were not disseminated for some time. In fact they were not disseminated until after the analysts changed their judgment about a protest. So there's a flow of information here that is really important to keep in mind as you think about how the analysts are trying to do their job here. 

Fox's attempt to spin old news into an “extraordinary headline” continues its efforts to hype the Benghazi conspiracy theory and the costly hearings into the tragedy. 

For more on this and other information on Benghazi myths, visit Mythopedia.